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A Review
Chapter II
William James'
Some Problems of Philosophy
by Doug Renselle
Doug's Pre-review Commentary
Start of Review

ISM Extremes

Dedication Introduction Note


Move to any Chapter of William James' Some Problems of Philosophy,
or to beginning of its review via this set of links
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Chapter II.............The Problem of Metaphysics


(Most quotes verbatim William James, some paraphrased.)

(Relevant to Pirsig, William James Sidis, and Quantonics Thinking Modes.)


James tells us no exact definition of metaphysics is possible, and a good way to get a sense of what metaphysics is, is to ask questions whose answers partially uncloak its ineffability.

"No exact definition of the term 'metaphysics' is possible, and to name some of the problems it treats of is the best way of getting at the meaning of the word. It means the discussion of various obscure, abstract, and universal questions which the sciences and life in general suggest but do not solve; questions left over, as it were; questions all of them very broad and deep, and relating to the whole of things, or to the ultimate elements thereof. Instead of a definition let me cite a few examples, in a random order, of such questions:

(Our bracketed review comments.)

If you infer and intellectually grunt just a bit here, you almost sense James is saying something very close to this: "metaphysics is reality," or as Dan Glover has so eloquently helped us in Quantonics, "metaphysics is modeling reality." Doug likes to say, "metaphysics is reality examining itself." If you, reader, keep that in mind as we provide our own heuristic answers to James' fecund questions, our intent may be clearer. Are we arrogant to attempt answers? No, for if we do not, how can others compare and improve? If we do not, how else can reality know more about itself? Science refuses to do it, so we must. It is good... (We may answer, "quanton(s)" for all 'what' questions below.)

 29-31, cont'd...

James' Classical Questions Doug's Quantum Answers
"What are thoughts?
Temporarily latched patterns of flux.
What are things?
Temporarily latched patterns of flux.
How are they connected?
As commingling patterns of flux. Quantum included~middle. Flux is omni~spatially~temporally arbitrary.
What do we mean when we say 'truth?'
Solitonic latched patterns of flux. We must say "truthings" to eliminate classical delusions of ideal 'state.'
Is there a common stuff out of which all facts are made?
Flux. (View flux as 'real.' We may model flux using fuzzons. See 3D fuzzon, circle, line, peaqlo, and point.)
How comes there to be a world at all?
Flux is 'co-aware' and 'coobsfective,' + it can both latch and unlatch. Flux exhibit cohera and entropa. Doug - 30Apr2006.
Might it as well not have been?
To be both 'latching' & 'unlatching' - together - is. Note: quantum~negation is subjective.
What is the most real kind of reality?
Absolute change and its concomitant many truthings. See Quantonics' MoQ, CR, and SOM.
What binds all things into one universe?
Absolute change. Quantum flux is interrelative: quanton relative. Flux is animate, heterogeneous, EIMAs.
Is unity or diversity more fundamental?
Yes. (James' query is classically SOMitic.) herence issi pluralistic "omnity." Too, say "omniversity."
Have all things one origin or many?
Yes. (Plus both local and nonlocal!) Please say "originings." Classical 1-1 correspondent cause is a delusion.
Is everything predestined, or are some things (our wills for example) free?
Yes. (Quantum's is ensemble determinism.)
Is the world infinite or finite in amount?
Yes. ('Amount' is a SOMitic, substantial term.)
Are its parts continuous, or are there vacua?
Yes. (Flux may be: 'preferential,' 'nonpreferential,' 'tentative/stochastic,' and 'isotropic' (vacuous).)
What is God?
Real. (Herrigel: "We are in It and It is in us.") Quantum G¤d is quantum actualities' c¤mplæmænt.
Or what are the gods?
Real. Quantum hlihty quanton(n¤nactuality,actuality) and is animate, heterogeneous, EIMA, etc.
How are mind and body joined?
Commingling patterns of flux. Classical 'join' is a logical delusion based upon an assumption of objectivity.
Do they act on each other?
Harmoniously, they play part of reality's music. See Quantonics' quantum stage.
How does anything act on anything else?
Via quantonic (commingling flux) interrelationshipings.
How can one thing change or grow out of another thing?
Incremental and novel latching of flux. Quanta are emerging (iso)flux attractor packets of energy~cohera~entropa.
Are space and time beings?
In a sense of co-awareness, yes. Reality is being. Learn to think quantum~heterogeneously ND-NT, n¤t 3D1T1.
What are space and time?
They are quantons. They are patterns of flux. See Quantonics' Pastings, Nowings, Futurings.
In knowledge, how does the object get into the mind?
Commingling patterns of flux. Body is quantum~holographic. Mind is quantum~holographic. Quanton(mind,body).
Alternatively, how does the mind get into the object?
Commingling patterns of flux. (Mind is in body and body is in mind. Doug - 30Apr2006.)
Are universal notions, by which we know, real?
Temporarily privileged, latched patterns of flux. Classical state-ic notions are unreal. Quantum animate memes are real.
Or are only particular things real?
SOM's 'particular things' are latched complements of quantons. Classical lisr particulateness is a delusion.
What is meant by 'thing?'
See previous. (Very high flux rates are adiabatic. Very fast fermions 'feel' solid. Doug - 30Apr2006.)
Are 'principles of reason,' inborn or derived?
They are novel, based on local islands of 'truth.' Simplest quanta can choose. Is that quantum~reason?
Are 'beauty' and 'good' matters of opinion only?
See previous. (Beauty and good, et al., are qualitative. Like wave~probabilities they are n¤n analytic. Doug - 30Apr2006.)
Or have they objective reality?
No objective reality 'exists' in a classical stoppable, holds still, state-ic, scalarbative sense.
If so, what does the phrase mean?"
Objective reality is classical ESQ conception of reality's actual (Static Quality) quanton complements.

1As an example try redoing, rethinking Einstein's 3D1T Special Relativity using 3D3T. Doug - 30Apr2006.

  29-31, cont'd...

[Note: Consider 21, 22, 25, and 28 above. James quite clearly assumes, despite his declared pluralism, global/universal principles in his asking of these questions. He appears, obviously, to use homogeneous (one, continuous) time and space. He appears to assume unilogical/homological views of 'principles' in his "universal." These are important antithetical examples to other perceptions your reviewer has of James as a natural and intuitive MoQite/quantum-mechanic.]

James also shows us Kant's three metaphysical questions:

  1. What can I know?
  2. What should I know?
  3. What can I hope?

James tells us Christian Wolf said that metaphysics is the science of the possible, and 'normal' science is about the actual.

Kant is a dyed-in-wool objectivist, so we see little use in answering these. You, reader if you wish, may infer answers from our answers to James' questions above. We assume all sentient intellect is finite. We assume choice/chance/change. We assume hope, like reality is essentially boundless.

Yes, and 'normal' (classical) science obviates reality's most important 'parts:' both actuality's complement, nonactuality, and their commingling interrelationships. Further, we will add that normal, classical science obviates all but 'known' actuality.
32 "These problems are for the most part real; that is, but few of them result from a misuse of terms in stating them. 'Things,' for example, are or are not composed of one stuff; they either have or have not a single origin; they either are or are not completely predetermined, etc. Such alternatives may indeed be impossible of decision; but until this is conclusively proved of them, they confront us legitimately, and some one must take charge of them and keep account of the solutions that are proposed, even if he does not himself add new ones. The opinions of the learned regarding them must, in short, be classified and responsibly discussed."

Here we see James, as we saw Bergson, exposing his soft underbelly of entrenched Aristotelian syllogistic thought. He broaches exclusive either/or as alternatives, then wafts, "may be impossible of decision." Latter, to our quantum mind set, hints enlightenment better, quantum epiphany: inclusive both/and included-middle both/and complementarity of actuality and nonactuality and included-middle commingling of both.

Via quantum reality, once grasped and beheld in full light, SOM's dichons and paradice evaporate then reality harmonizes instead of head-bangs, opposes, and contradicts. Once played on our quantum stages, one intuits, 'Flux is crux!' Opinion: Doug's.


"There must in short be metaphysicians. Let us for a while become metaphysicians ourselves.

"As we survey the history of metaphysics we soon realize that two pretty distinct types of mind have filled it with their warfare. Let us call them the rationalist and the empiricist types of mind. A saying of Coleridge's is often quoted, to the effect that every one is born either a platonist or an aristotelian. By aristotelian, he means empiricist, and by platonist, he means rationalist; but although the contrast between the two Greek philosophers exists in the sense in which Coleridge meant it, both of them were rationalists as compared with the kind of empiricism which Democritus and Protagoras developed; and Coleridge had better have taken either of those names instead of Aristotle as his empiricist example."

Pages 34 and 35 are of el primo importance to understanding James' philosophy and his metaphysics. That import urges us to distill Western culture's three major competing philosophies at Millennium III's beginning:

  1. SOM - truth is absolute (absolute certainty)
  2. CR - relativity is absolute (absolute uncertainty)
  3. MoQ - change is absolute (quantum uncertainty)

Crudely, SOM is more rational than empirical. CR is chaos (relative truth, relative value, relative everything). MoQ is more empirical of the novel r-evolutionary kind (context dependent islandic truth, absolute moral value/change).

We agree with his substitution of Democritus and Protagoras in place of Aristotle. Plato just didn't "get it."


"Rationalists are the men of principles, empiricists the men of facts; but, since principles are universals, and facts are particulars, perhaps the best way of characterizing the two tendencies is to say that rationalist thinking proceeds most willingly by going from wholes to parts, while empiricist thinking proceeds by going from parts to wholes. Plato, the archrationalist, explained the details of nature by their participation in 'ideas,' which all depended on the supreme idea of the 'good.' Protagoras and Democritus were empiricists. The latter explained the whole cosmos, including gods as well as men, and thoughts as well as things, by their composition out of atomic elements; Protagoras explained truth, which for Plato was the absolute system of the ideas, as a collective name for men's opinions.

"Rationalists prefer to deduce facts from principles. Empiricists prefer to explain principles as [novel] inductions from facts. Is thought for the sake [a purpose] of life? Or is life for the sake [a purpose] of thought? Empiricism inclines to the former, rationalism to the latter branch of the alternative."

(Our brackets.) MoQites are folk of Value. And we may show Pirsig's Value using James' own words, thus:

Valuequanton(DQ,universals_&_facts), where both universals and facts are specific instances of SQ. All actual reality is some constituent of SQ.

James' distinction of rationalists and empiricists encompasses only actuality. Using our notation we can depict a larger frame:

Realityquanton(nonactuality,actuality), which shows how James' rationalists and empiricists (as do all classicists) obviate nonactuality and its complementary interrelationships with actuality. This tendency, in our view, arises from adherence to Aristotle's syllogisms, especially his substance-based excluded-middle.

MoQites prefer to model new Static Patterns of Value (SPoVs) based upon novel, empirical (stochastic), incremental evolutions of local and nonlocal preconditions of SPoVs all commingling and compenetrating absolute, isotropic flux. Simply, these models are quantons!

36 "[Rationalism's] theories are usually optimistic, supplementing the experienced world by clean and pure ideal constructions. Aristotle and Plato, the Scholastics, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibnitz, Kant, and Hegel are examples of this. They claimed absolute finality for their systems, in the noble architecture of which, as their authors believed, truth was eternally embalmed. This temper of finality is foreign to empiricist minds. They may be dogmatic about their method of building on 'hard facts,' but they are willing to be sceptical about any conclusions reached by the method at a given time. They aim at accuracy of detail rather than at completeness; are contented to be fragmentary; are less inspiring than the rationalists, often treating the high as a case of 'nothing but' the low ('nothing but' self-interest well understood, etc.), but they usually keep more in touch with actual life, are less subjective, and their spirit is obviously more 'scientific' in the hackneyed sense of that term."

(Our bold color emphasis. Our brackets.)

James writes of SOM's One Global Truth in One Global Context. Appropriately, he juxtaposes empiricism's axiom of novel, incremental, temporary, evolutionary privilege.

Pirsig sees fundamentalists' insistence on absolute finality as Exclusive Static Quality, or ESQ. In his MoQ, he declares ESQ its only 'evil.' Static Quality which absolutely refuses DQ's persistent mandate for change is, in Pirsig's MoQ, 'immoral.'


"Socrates, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, the Mills, F.A. Lange, J. Dewey, F.C.S. Schiller, Bergson, and other contemporaries are specimens of this type. Of course we find mixed minds in abundance, and few philosophers are typical in either class. Kant may fairly be called mixed. Lotze and Royce are mixed. The author of this volume is weakly endowed on the rationalist side, and this book will show a strong leaning towards empiricism. The clash of the two ways of looking at things will be emphasized throughout the volume.

"I will now enter the interior of the subject by discussing special problems as examples of metaphysical inquiry; and in order not to conceal any of the skeletons in the philosophic closet, I will start with the worst problem possible, the so-called 'ontological problem,' or question of how there comes to be anything at all."

(Our bold color emphasis.)

Unfortunately, James is a thelogosist of first magnitude. You may wish to see our June, 1999 Quantonic Question and Answer on thelogosis. Try reading James by just deleting his 'THEs' or by substituting either an 'a' or a possessive article. Most 19th and 20th century academics suffer this lingual disease.

James' use of 'clash' is telling. Nowhere in this text did we see where he tumbled to an included-middle, both/and solution to this Aristotelian syllogism-provoked 'clash.'

James' worst problem is also known as quantum science's measurement problem and Pirsig's Quality Event (QE) problem. Also see Stein.

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To contact Quantonics write to or call:

Doug Renselle
Quantonics, Inc.
Suite 18 #368 1950 East Greyhound Pass
Carmel, INdiana 46033-7730

©Quantonics, Inc., 2000-2011 Rev. 10Jan2009  PDR Created: 7Apr2000  PDR
(23Apr2000 rev - Correct typos.)
(23Apr2000 rev - Add comments to pp. 29-31.)
(27Jun2000 rev - Correct typos.)
(14Aug2000 rev - Correct typos.)
(10Dec2001 rev - Add top of page frame-breaker.)
(13Jan2003 rev - Add missing right paren to item 14 in pp. 29-31 comments.)
(20Jan2005 rev - Reset legacy red text. Add p. 29 flux anchor.)
(30Apr2006 rev - Release page constraints. Adjust colors. Reformat pp. 29-31 for much easier reading and alignment of numbered lists.)
(4Sep2007 rev - Reformat page. Massive respell. Reset legacy red text.)
(10Jan2009 rev - Make page current.)

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